Federal labor leaders question Bush's hiring controls

Hiring controls issued by President Bush last weekend have union leaders questioning how the new president plans to accomplish his goal of downsizing the federal workforce. Bush's Chief of Staff Andrew Card outlined the hiring controls in a memo sent to heads and acting heads of executive agencies. According to the memo, "no decision relating to hiring shall be made unless and until such decision is reviewed and approved by a department or agency head appointed by the President after noon on Jan. 20, 2001." On Tuesday, the Office of Personnel Management issued its own memo specifying that the hiring controls apply to all personnel decisions, including appointments, promotions and reassignments. Agencies are able to honor job offers made prior to January 20. Phil Kete, director of the office of labor management at the American Federation of Government Employees, said the memo concerned him. "It was the federal workforce that kept the government running while the two candidates were running for office, while they didn't know who won," Kete said. "For the new administration to start out with an across the board ban on reassigning employees…is a slap at the federal workforce." OPM and White House officials said that Monday's memo does not call for a government hiring freeze, but rather asks agencies to implement certain hiring controls, and to review any new hires carefully. "This is not particularly surprising," said Carol Bonosaro, president of the Senior Executives Association. "It's pretty much become a tradition as you have a change in administration that the initial action is going to be to stop the music until there are new appointees in place." But SEA is concerned about Bush's plan to reduce management ranks, especially because the career Senior Executive Service was reduced by almost 20 percent during the Clinton administration, Bonosaro said. "That is a substantial hit for what is basically a very small corps that leads the entire Executive Branch, and further reduction may, in fact, hamper the effective management of essential government functions," she said. Both Kete and Bonosaro said they are ready to work with the new administration in helping to achieve the President's goals. The fact that the memo does not allow managers to simply contract work out is a good sign, Kete said. "We are eager to work with [the Office of Management and Budget] to eliminate the unnecessary layers of management, without eliminating the ability of the federal workforce," Kete said. "We have a pretty clear vision of how the government can be made more efficient, we'll just have to see the extent to which the Bush administration missions are consistent or inconsistent with that [vision]." Bonosaro urged the administration to do some careful analysis before setting any goals. "That has not always been the case, sometimes the cart has been put in front of the horse," Bonosaro said. "The numerical goals were set because they sounded good without really taking a careful look at what, in fact, was required to run a particular program and agency and department."
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